The Computer Support
Services Team at
College meets the
technology needs of
students and faculty.
n the age of ubiquitous and constantly evolving technologies, decisions about what to buy, when and
how to deploy digital innovations
work best when community colleges
use systematic, team approaches.
The digital education leaders of Walters State
Community College, Kirkwood Community College
and Delta College offer insights about their colleges' multi-faceted decision-making processes.
They also share effective implementation practices.
WOVEN INTO THE GOVERNANCE PROCESS
Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids,
Iowa, posts its IT strategic plan on its website with
notations about the status of action items. The plan
is updated every six months when Jon Neff, vice
president of information technologies, reports to
the college's trustees and gains approval for the next
six months. "They give great input," Neff says.
The content of the strategic plan is shaped by
faculty representatives of every academic department
who serve on the Learning Technology Advisory
Committee, chaired by a tenured faculty member; a
resource users group that is a subset of the cabinet led
by the chief financial officer; and students.
The technology department uses surveys and
roundtable discussions with students to identify
their unmet needs, nuances with the technologies
and problems. When it comes to gathering feedback
from various campus constituencies, Neff says, "a
single method is typically not adequate enough."
Delta College, located in University Center,
Michigan, serves more than 13,000 students.
Technology considerations are linked through
the institution's strategic plan, IT strategic plan
and its budget cabinet, which filters requests for
technology and equipment.
Delta's formal governance structure includes
an IT council with 22 members who represent key
areas of the college. The council develops tactical
plans, shapes policies and reports information
back its constituencies.
"They just really do a great job of making sure
that we're getting the input we need from all the
areas of the college," says Barbara R. Webb, Delta's
director of business services. With a $100,000 threshold for expenditures that require board approval,
Webb frequently interacts with the board regarding
Joe Sargent, assistant vice president of information and educational technologies at Walters State
Community College in Morristown, Tennessee,
describes IT decisions primarily as a "two-way
street" between faculty and the IT department.
Faculty make IT suggestions to deans who prioritize
the purchase requests sent to the IT department. IT
staffers also work directly with faculty who serve
on pilot groups that test new software and hardware. More than once, recommendations from pilot
groups have prompted the IT department to change
purchase plans and to research other options.
"Our faculty are pretty astute and technology
minded," Sargent says. Years ago, there were times
when the IT department was pulling the faculty along.
Now, he says, it is often faculty members who are
pushing the IT staffers to add a particular technology.
This yin-and-yang approach has helped the college
keep its systems updated and avoiding problems.
Recently, faculty requested a cloud-based technology for students to use to submit forms. It would
have included financial aid documents. It had to be
reworked when IT personnel discovered gaps in the
product's security for personal data. Similarly, the
planned update of the college's video conferencing
system was placed on hold when none of the tested
options performed better than the current equipment.
GROUND RULES FOR PILOT TESTS
While all three colleges work with vendors to test
new technologies before buying, the duration of
pilot tests vary among them.
Delta College uses
technology like this
Anatomage Table in
its health professions